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China Extends Hold in Spratly Islands

VIETNAM claimed yesterday that China has put up a territory marker on another reef in the contested Spratly Islands, continuing China's recent push to consolidate its claim over the chain.

It would be only the latest in a series of Chinese moves to strengthen its presence in the chain of islands in the South China Sea, believed to sit atop rich oil and mineral deposits.

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Nguyen Quoc Cuong, the press attache at the Vietnamese Embassy in Beijing, said his Foreign Ministry called in the Chinese ambassador to Hanoi and lodged a protest on Tuesday.

"We demanded they withdraw that stone marker. It violates the sovereignty of Vietnam," Mr. Cuong said. The state-run Vietnamese News Agency said several Chinese boats cast anchor Saturday at Da Lac reef, landed soldiers and materials, and planted a "landmark of sovereignty" on the reef.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to queries about the Vietnamese charge. China said last week that it was preparing to hold a special meeting with Vietnam to discuss the islands.

The islands also are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Brunei.

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